The Kingdom of God—Part 2

Signs of Its Establishment

“So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” —Luke 21:31

UNKNOWN to mankind as a whole, yet clearly revealed in the Bible, the plan of God for man’s eternal happiness and salvation has been progressing steadily onward in an orderly and systematic manner. The permission of evil, man’s experience with death and the results of sin, God’s dealings with the Israelites, the sending of the only begotten Son of God into the world to become a ransom sacrifice, and the call and development of the church class have all been steps in God’s plan. They have all been paving the way for the gigantic climax of the ages—the millennial morning when God establishes his kingdom in grandeur and glory, visibly intervening in the course of man’s affairs.

For such a stupendous event as this, it would only be reasonable to expect that God would provide earnest students of the Bible with the information they need to identify the time preceding the occasion. This period is variously referred to in the Bible by such terms as the last days, the end of the world (age), the time of the end, the day of wrath, and the day of Jehovah.

The Apostle Paul wrote that the church class, or people of God, living in this period would be fully informed concerning the significance of events transpiring in the world: “Ye brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. … Therefore, let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”—I Thess. 5:4,6

Yes, God has been pleased to inform his people of their position in respect to the stream of time, particularly that they might cheer and comfort others concerning the true meaning of the fast-moving events of these days. What, then, are the signs of the end of the age? How can the events which prove that the long-awaited kingdom of God is near at hand be identified with reasonable accuracy?

There are several unusual and unique circumstances which characterize the pre-kingdom period and set it apart from anything that has ever occurred before in the history of man upon the earth. It is intended to present a series of five signs, each separate from the other, and yet each calling attention to the same earthshaking event which the Bible shows is destined to occur. We believe these signs will offer substantial evidence that the world is approaching the time when “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.”—Rev. 11:15

Increase of Knowledge

First to be mentioned is the sudden increase of knowledge foretold in Daniel’s prophecy: “Shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Dan. 12:4) The last part of this text will be considered first. It contains a prediction that man’s acquisition of knowledge would not be a relatively progressive process throughout the centuries, as might be expected, but rather that it would be brought about in a very sudden manner.

It is difficult to appreciate the fact that the diffusion of knowledge has been a relatively recent accomplishment, inasmuch as widespread education and the fruits of learning are so commonplace in our day. Yet a study of the subject corroborates the accuracy of Daniel’s prophecy.

The invention and perfection of the printing press provided the greatest impetus for increasing man’s knowledge, by making it possible to preserve and circulate the benefits of other men’s studies. The compulsory education of the common people is of still more recent origin and has enabled great numbers of people to enjoy the benefits of recorded knowledge and has stimulated further advances.

The following illustration might be used to highlight the recency and suddenness of man’s increase of knowledge: If the last 6,000 years of man’s educational progress were represented in a book with one page devoted to each year, it would not be until approximately 5,800 pages were written that the common man would be described as achieving the status of literacy.

Although comprehensive statistics on the increase of world literacy are not available, it is possible to obtain a general picture of the progress made. The countries of western and northern Europe, the British Isles and other English speaking countries were the first to make significant gains in educating their people. Literacy advances by other nations were slower and very recent in attainment.

 Population (1979)

Education (1977)
School Enrollment
% of total
All Least Developed Countries267.912%
Socialist Countries of Eastern Europe375.772%
Developed Market Economy Countries780.586%
Forbes, July 1981 from U.N. Statistical Office

For the United States, more complete data is available; and considering that the United States is one of the foremost nations of earth, it is quite surprising to learn that just a little over a hundred years ago twenty percent of the population fourteen years of age or older could not read or write. If figures for other countries could be obtained, the same pattern would be shown in even more exaggerated form, as it has been in only very recent times that man’s knowledge has markedly increased.

Recall now the first part of Daniel’s prophecy: “Many shall run to and fro.” On the basis of this prophecy, the noted English scientist and Bible scholar, Sir Isaac Newton, predicted that a time would come when man would travel at the speed of fifty miles per hour. Newton’s predictions were considered so incredible that he was ridiculed by his eighteenth century contemporaries. Today, however, only some 250 years later, international jet travel, complex highway systems, super powered automobiles, and streamlined trains have become commonplace.

These fast means of travel were also predicted in another Bible prophecy found in Nahum 2:3,4, where their development is linked with the day of God’s preparation, the period preceding the millennial kingdom: “The chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation. … The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings.”

Today, other inventions such as the telephone, radio, television, motion pictures, computers, and an array of gadgets have also become a standard part of our way of life. Nuclear power and space travel are now growing in importance. This endless list of modern inventions and conveniences, rapid means of communication and transportation, resulting from the great increase of knowledge in our day, was never before even dreamed of in the history of mankind.

Once again the accuracy of Daniel’s prophecy should be analyzed. Did all these inventions occur gradually throughout man’s history, or have they appeared suddenly? The illustration, “Timeline of Man’s Basic Inventions,” was constructed to answer this question. (Information for Timeline based upon: “Inventions,” The Encyclopedia Americana (1944 ed.); and “Invention,” Collier’s Encyclopedia) Does it not highlight the fact that man’s major inventions were developed within the last two centuries, rather than distributed equally throughout the annals of history?

Timeline of Man's Basic Inventions

We believe that there is a special significance attached to all this. Daniel’s prophecy was given to draw attention to the increase of knowledge as one of a series of prophetic sign-posts announcing the end of the age and the approach of the millennial day, or kingdom of God. Nahum’s prophecy associates rapid means of travel with the day of God’s preparation for the kingdom. Therefore, both texts would indicate the establishment of the kingdom to be very near at hand.

Distress of Nations

Second in the listing of the signs of the end is the great distress of nations which has gripped the world of our day. Commentators on the world scene are agreed that people far and near are distressed and perplexed over the social, political, and economic problems of this generation. Mankind has always been beset by problems, but in several respects there has been no precedent to those which vex the world today. The Bible alone has provided a vivid preview of these troublous times and their final outcome, in prophecies reading like current newspaper headlines.

In Daniel’s prophecy, this period of world history is described as “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time.” The time of its occurrence is fixed by the additional statement, “Shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end.”—Dan. 12:1,4

Jesus corroborated this prediction in his reply to the disciples’ question, “What will be the sign of thy presence, and of the consummation of the age?” (Matt. 24:3, Diaglott) He said: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.” (Matt. 24:21,22) He answered further: “And there shall be … upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; … men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.”—Luke 21:25,26

Other inspired writers of the Bible have added their testimony concerning this period of world distress. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:2,3: “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

Zephaniah adds to the setting: “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly: … the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord.”—Zeph. 1:14-17

And Haggai states: “For thus saith the Lord of hosts, … I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.”—Hag. 2:6,7

We believe that the evidence is very strong that we are now in this period of the world’s history described by Daniel and Jesus as the end or consummation of the age. Mankind has just witnessed two global wars in a single generation, followed by other smaller conflicts, and fears of still another world war. Some might contend that there have always been wars and that it is only natural for modern warfare to be more intense, since newer weapons and greater numbers of people are involved.

Never before, however, has there been such universal fear in the hearts of men “looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” (Luke 21:26) Men’s minds today have been struck with terror unknown prior to the Nuclear Age. Never before was it possible for man to annihilate virtually all civilization with such terrible instruments of destruction as atomic and hydrogen bombs, nuclear radiation, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and germ warfare.

A Hollywood film production, “On the Beach,” dramatized the possibility of a nuclear holocaust wiping out all mankind. How meaningful this makes Jesus’ words that “except those days should be shortened [by divine intervention], there should no flesh be saved.”—Matt. 24:22

There are other aspects of today’s troubled world that may also be shown to stand without precedent in history. Think of the strenuous efforts for survival being made throughout the world, both collectively and individually. As the nations fling themselves headlong toward the final calamity, they are endeavoring to protect themselves by military compacts, regional alliances, and international councils.

Sensing the inevitable futility of these agreements, the various governments are forced to instruct their people in the methods of civil defense in case of sudden attack, including detailed plans for home radiation shelters and survival under nuclear attack. These ties among the nations and home preparedness plans, although offering a measure of security, fall far short of erasing the fears of what might happen in the expected push-button war.

The student of the Bible need not be alarmed over the events taking place in the world today. He realizes that they have been predicted in the Word of God and are shown to be the inevitable consequence of disobeying the laws of God concerning man’s obligation both to his Creator and to his fellow man. He realizes, too, that there is really a silver lining behind the dark clouds.

Yes, the great time of trouble in which the world is plunged today actually constitutes one of the strongest evidences that God’s kingdom is soon to be established. Man’s extremity will then prove to be God’s opportunity. When the nations have been shaken sufficiently so that they are willing to learn the ways of righteousness, then, by divine intervention, “the desire of all nations [for peace and security] shall come.”

The Rebirth of Israel

The third point that identifies the present time as the end of the age is the reestablishment of Israel as an independent nation. A history of the Jews provides a fascinating account of a people who were especially dealt with by God for a specific purpose. It is a record of a people that begins two thousand years before Christ, in the person of Abraham, and continues through colorful episodes of slavery, desert wanderings, divine revelations, and eventual establishment as a nation. In this early period are found such famous personages as Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, and Solomon.

As shown in the Bible, the status of the Jews was unique, due to their special relationship to God. God had destined to select a people he could use both to provide a preview of the arrangements of his coming kingdom and to offer them the position of chief favor in that kingdom. God had said: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then … ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”—Exod. 19:5,6

In addition, there were promises of earthly blessings and prosperity for faithfulness to the special covenant which he made with them: “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then … the land shall yield her increase; … ye shall eat your bread to the full. … And I will give peace in the land. … And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. … For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you. … And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” (Lev. 26:3-12) These were promises which had never before been made to a particular people; and if the conditions of faithfulness upon which they were based had been kept by the Israelites, they would have led to immeasurable blessings.

The history of the Jewish people, however, presents a continual record of unfaithfulness and disobedience to the ways of God, picturing the wayward course of the entire human race. Instead of receiving the blessings, they inherited the curses; for again the prophecy reads: “I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them: because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the Lord, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets.”—Jer. 29:18,19

True to the prophecies, after the reign of King Solomon, who had succeeded in raising Israel to the pinnacle of its glory, Israel embarked on its downward path. Ten of its twelve tribes seceded to form a separate kingdom, so evil in God’s sight that he allowed it to be conquered and the people deported to Assyria and scattered.

The two remaining tribes, notwithstanding the exhortations of the prophets, also fell into disrepute with God. In 606 B.C. they were defeated by Nebuchadnezzar and taken captive to Babylonia for seventy years. King Cyrus of Medo-Persia restored the Jews to their land, but they were unable to achieve the status of an independent nation. Israel was subject in turn to Persia, Greece, and finally Rome, at which time the Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ was sent to them.

Once again the nation of Israel had an opportunity to be received into God’s favor by heeding the greatest of all the Jewish prophets. Jesus and his teachings, however, were rejected by the rulers of Israel. The sentence as pronounced by Jesus is recorded in Matthew 23:38: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” In A.D. 70, Jerusalem was burned to the ground, the people taken captive to Rome, and the Jews scattered among all nations, seemingly forever dispersed.

Nonetheless, God did not permanently cast off his people. The prophecies read: “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely.” (Jer. 32:37) “I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them. … And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” (Amos 9:14,15) The Hebrew word shebuwth rendered ‘captivity’ may also be translated ‘a former state of prosperity,’ according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. This phrase is then seen to apply to the time when God restores Israel’s state of prosperity rather than to the loss of her independence.

Here lies the most astounding feature in the continuing story of the Jew, the modern episode fulfilling prophecy right before our eyes in the return of favor to Israel. Yes, the Jews have gone back! Out of almost every country some have returned.

After the U.N. partition plan for Israel was set up, in 1948 Israel declared its independence, and a new nation was born. Where in the annals of history is there a precedent for the return of a people who had been scattered into every corner of the earth? Israel seemingly has accomplished the impossible, that of reestablishing itself as a nation after a lapse of almost nineteen centuries. Yet it is an event which has not seemed strange to students of the prophecies, for they have been awaiting it for many years.

In Joel 3:1,2,9-11 is found a prophecy that links Israel’s return with the great time of trouble upon the world: When I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehosaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. … Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about.”

Here the prophecy shows that the return of the Jews to their homeland would be accompanied by vast mobilization of arms by the Gentile nations as they prepared for global warfare. This combination of circumstances—the returning Jews and the contemporaneous international arms race—has found its fulfillment only in our day.

Perhaps the most conclusive evidence that the prophetic destiny of Israel is directly related to the end of the age is found in Jesus’ parable of the fig tree. When the disciples asked the Master concerning the signs of his presence and of the end of the age, one of the replies that he gave was a parable, as recorded in Matthew 24:32,33: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” Until recently the full meaning of this reply was shrouded in mystery.

Today, students of the Bible understand that the sprouting fig tree is a symbol of the new nation of Israel putting forth its first signs of prosperity and maturity after a long season of dormancy. In the Old Testament, figs were used as a symbol of the Jewish people, as shown in Jeremiah the twenty-fourth chapter. In the New Testament another incident reveals the same thing, as recorded in Mark 11:12-14,20-22.

Jesus’ condemnation of the fig tree in this account was really leveled against the Jewish nation, which it represented. Israel claimed to have the fruits of righteousness at the time that Jesus their Messiah was sent. In reality this claim was false, since their Messiah was despised and rejected by the nation, which therefore justly deserved the punishment that later came upon it.

All these scriptural testimonies serve to highlight the fact that the due time for Israel’s rebirth and sprouting as a nation would be in the end of the age. The Matthew account reads: “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” The parallel account in Luke 21:31 makes this still clearer with the rendering: “When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”

End of the Age Witness

The fourth evidence that this is the end of the age is offered by Jesus’ prophecy recorded in Matthew 24:14: “This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Reiterated in Mark 13:10 (Moffatt Translation), it reads, “Ere the end, the Gospel must be preached to all nations.”

Jesus spoke these words to his disciples in reply to their question, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (Matt. 24:3, RSV) Later he commissioned his followers to be his witnesses, starting locally in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and finally to “the uttermost part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8

Here was an indication that by the providences of God the message of the kingdom was to be promulgated throughout the world as a testimony to all nations. When this is accomplished, then shall the final end come, that is, the great time of trouble among the nations which will close out this evil social order and usher in the millennial kingdom.

The first requisite of this great witness to the world would be the dissemination of the Word of God itself, in which are recorded the prophecies of God and his promises to his creatures. This feat of Bible distribution has now been accomplished by the collective efforts of various Bible societies. Their work may be summarized briefly as follows:

The first society to be founded for the purpose of printing Bibles at small cost and thus making possible their wide circulation was The Canstein Bible Institute, established in the year 1710 in Halle, Germany. Perhaps the strongest impetus to the distribution of Bibles was given after 1804, when the British and Foreign Bible Society was founded in London. This group, in turn, encouraged the organization of similar societies throughout Europe and America. In 1816 the American Bible Society was instituted.

Together, the various Bible societies have accomplished a widespread distribution and encouragement of the use of the Bible. By translations into well over a thousand languages and dialects and by nonprofit publication, the widest possible circulation has been secured. To date, it has been estimated that well over a billion printed Bibles and portions have been distributed.—“Bible,” Collier’s Encyclopedia

The second requisite of the world witness is an accurate understanding of the kingdom message recorded in the Scriptures. Although translated into almost every tongue, accessible to all, and even a continual best seller, the Bible remains a sealed book to most of its readers, in terms of being able to understand its contents. Traditional misconceptions of Bible teachings carried over from the past, when true Bible study was restricted, have hindered many from approaching the Scriptures in an unbiased manner.

Today the true Gospel of the kingdom is being preached not only by word of mouth but also by explanatory literature, radio, and television. Through these modern media, the message that God’s kingdom is at hand is now able to penetrate the remotest areas, even unto the uttermost part of the earth.

In view of the vast potentialities of these modern preaching methods, the witness to the nations concerning God’s wondrous plan of salvation and coming kingdom will soon be complete. When the Gospel has thus been preached, regardless of the number responding to the message, then shall the end come.

Exploding World Population

Just a few years ago the foregoing facts would have concluded the list of significant signs. Today, however, it is possible to add a fifth point, which has been causing great concern to thinking people everywhere—the worldwide problem of population explosion. Population statistics are showing that although it has taken many thousands of years to amass the present world population of about four billion, it will now require just forty years to double that number.

It may be seen from the chart below, “World Population Growth,” that because of the snowballing affect, the world’s population is due to multiply at a staggering rate. By the year 2000 it is estimated that there will be 6.3 billion people; by 2040, 13.5 billion; by 2080, 29.1 billion; by 2120, 62.6 billion; and by 2160, 135 billion.

World Population Growth

Just think, at the present rate of growth there would be virtually standing room only on the earth in less than 200 years! Commenting on this situation, an official United Nations study on population predicted “that the world is in danger of foundering in its own population growth.”—Data for chart based upon: (1) “An Overcrowded World?” U.S. News & World Report, August 29, 1958, p. 48; and (2) United Nations Department of Social Affairs, Population Division, The Determinants and Consequences of Population Trends, p. 11.

Everyone realizes that something must happen to prevent this calamity, yet very few are aware of the Bible’s assurance that God’s kingdom will provide the final remedy to this problem. After creating the first human pair, God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Gen. 1:28, Leeser Translation) The command was to fill the earth, not to overpopulate it.

The population graph reveals that this point in the history of man will soon be reached, and it also shows the dire consequences that would result without divine intervention. Overcrowding upon the earth would be blight upon God’s plan for man’s happiness and therefore will not be permitted.

Further assurance that God destined man to live comfortably upon the earth is found in Isaiah 45:18: “God … formed the earth and made it, … he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited.” Notice that God intended the earth to be inhabited so that its creation would not be in vain.

The latest statistics on population, while drawing attention to the difficulties that could lie ahead, also serve as the final link in the interlocking chain of evidences pointing to the proximity of God’s kingdom. If the world has already entered the snowballing portion of the population cycle, it can be only a short time interlude before the kingdom must be established to prevent the otherwise inevitable from occurring. When the kingdom becomes operative, it will solve this vexing population problem as well as bring the peace, life, and goodwill that man has always sought.

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